GAT- SHMANIM : Oil, Blood and Life...
East of the Temple Mount, on the foot of the western slope of the Mount of Olives stands ‘The Garden of Gethsemane’. Roads have been rerouted and surely widened, and many new buildings have been erected, but visitors will not find it hard to locate the spots where the ancient traditions have indicated the Agony and arrest of Jesus.
The Garden is filled with olive trees, some of these are told to be old enough that we can call them the silent “eyewitnesses” who saw Jesus’ arrest and heard His prayers after He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples…. This garden is one of the many charming gardens which historians tell that old Jerusalem abounded with. It perhaps belonged to a friend of Jesus, or else was one of these “gardens”, thrown open at the great festival seasons to the faithful pilgrims who on these occasions crowded the holy city and its periphery.
“Gethsemane” is a word deriving of two Hebrew words GAT and SHMANIM, which in a way means “oil-press” … olive presses are to be found in this region; and it is known that at an olive press, olives were gathered into rough sacks, piled one on top of the other…then a beam was lowered onto the stack and increasing weight was added to the end of the beam to press oil from the olives…. And the more pressure, the more oil!!
However, that night, almost 2000 years ago, “Gethsemane “saw another kind of pressure… Anticipating the physical and spiritual trauma that lay ahead, Jesus describes Himself as being “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” and he asks his disciples to pray with him. The biblical account of Luke, who was a physician, adds the interesting detail that, being in anguish, Jesus “prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
The condition of “bloody sweat” is known as hematidrosis, and it happens when under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. In her visions blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich , the Augustinian nun, saw Jesus in this agony. She tells that the Lord” kneeled down and prayed, (…)Then His soul beheld His own suffering (…) and the suffering of His mother (…) and all the future sufferings of His Apostles, disciples, and friends (….) Also the heresies and schisms (… )The scandals of all ages, down to the present day and even to the end of the world — every species of error, deception, mad fanaticism, obstinacy, and malice — were displayed before His eyes...”
Most likely, the Lord facing these horrible visions of the future coupled with the indifference and ingratitude of the men who refuse to benefit from what He was taking upon Himself, He exclaimed: “0 Father if you are willing let this cup pass from me… yet not my will, but yours be done!” The breaking of God’s will in the Garden of Eden was repaired by a perfect submission to the divine will in Gethsemane…. the blessed nun conclude this part of her vision:” I saw the blood flowing in large drops down the pale face of our Savior, His hair matted together, and His beard bloody and entangled. “
Remarkably, the first bloodshed by Christ in his Passion was not drawn by human hands. He bled of his own will before placing Himself into the hands of his executors. In other words, the lord had already given what his tormentors would claim they had taken. In (John 10:18) he reminds us: “No man takes my life from me; I am laying it down of my own will”.
GAT – SHMANIM…is the garden where pressure produces olive oil… And, Oil in the bible is a picture of the presence of the Spirit of God, also used for anointing priests and kings… moreover, to bring light from the menorah in the Tabernacle in the wilderness… Hence, the painful pressure is able to bring a source of joy, healing and light… And so was the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus that inaugurated on the plateau of that garden!! It was extremely painful but the lord willingly took it out of love for humanity … He knew it will produce the joy of salvation and the healing of the scars, and also the light of life.
In that perspective, when we bleed in the darkness of our personal (GAT – SHMANIM ), our own “Gethsemane” : let us trust the lord and willingly unite our affliction to that of the savior so we may spot the light of resurrection…